Rita Abrams. Copyright Lisa Wiseman Photography.

The inaugural Mill Valley Music Fest, a one-day (12-7pm), multi-genre music fest featuring five great bands and an incredible slate of fooddrinkart and kids’ activities – all to the benefit of our amazing community – is almost here. 

As you likely know by now, the mellifluous lineup is headlined by Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Ben Harper & the Innocent CriminalsLettuce, one of the great funk-jam bands of the modern age; Nashville’s very own psychedelic-folk rockstar Liz Cooper & the Stampede; Latin Grammy Award-winning Venezuelan disco-funk trio Los Amigos Invisibles; and the Bay Area-based La Doña, a Latin-Alternative music project from Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea and considered to be one of the most sought-after new acts from the Golden State.

We’re also going to have a very special guest on the main stage: the one and only Rita Abrams, who is celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Mill Valley” song, a tribute to the town we call home and the track that, for many people, put Mill Valley on the map. Here and here are past recent, and not so recent, performances of the song.

Abrams, the Strawberry Point School third grade teacher who wrote the song about our town for her kindergarten class to sing 52 years ago. For Abrams, each anniversary of the song reminds her of her deep ties to the 94941 and her moment of mini-stardom, when her song about a town that “looks as pretty in the rain as in the sun” briefly brought the 94941 into the national consciousness.

”It was 52 years ago that Sam Schneider of Varney’s Hardware proposed to the Mill Valley City Council that our Mill Valley song become the official town song, and the rest is history—50 years of history, spanning wars, fires, droughts, pandemics, and socio-cultural upheavals,” Abrams says.

While every anniversary of the song’s creation has brought back fond memories and reunions with her (now-middle-aged) former students, Abrams admits that the song’s stunning success – it spent three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a radio staple – had remained a bit of a blur.

“It all just happened so fast back then,” she says with a laugh.

To add clarity to that blur, Abrams and Terry McGovern, the KSFO disc jockey who played the song on the radio for the first time in June 1970, built an entire show around the song itself in conjunction with its 45th anniversary. That show included an audio-visual component about the song and its history – photos and interviews with the likes of Sammy Hagar, former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres and many of the Strawberry Point students who sang on the song. It also includes short films, particularly the original “Mill Valley” video, shot by a young filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola before he became Hollywood royalty, as well as “Mill Valley Redux,” the 2014 recreation of the song by local filmmaker Tiffany Shlain.

“It’s like opening up my amazing scrapbook to my whole community and friends,” Abrams says of the multimedia component. “The things I’m finding are remarkable.”

Abrams will perform at approximately 1pm on Saturday on the main stage!

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